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‘There’s no place like home’: an exploration of graduate attitudes toward place and mobility

Cunningham, Eileen and Christie, Fiona (2019) ‘There’s no place like home’: an exploration of graduate attitudes toward place and mobility. Project Report. Prospects Luminate.

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Abstract

This report presents a small-scale, mixed methods research project exploring patterns of regional graduate migration, building upon the typology proposed by Ball (2015). It seeks to better understand the reasons why new graduates might stay in the North West of England. The participants graduated from five North West universities. There is a greater representation of individuals from the Greater Manchester conurbation, and from those who stayed in the region to work. The region is undergoing transformation through policy initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse, Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and local industrial strategies. There is a need to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce. Although London is still the top graduate recruiting region the North West is fertile ground for recruiters and job-seekers of all sectors. The results of the survey and themes from qualitative interviews suggested that, for many, staying in the region was a positive choice influenced heavily by family and friends as well as an affinity to the region itself because of culture and environment. In addition, many participants expressed hope and confidence in the opportunities available. Place emerges as not just a physical location but as representing deep connections to people, culture and identity. These conclusions challenge lazy assumptions that immobility might represent a default option or a lack of ambition. Employers, policymakers and careers services could usefully focus upon increasing the systematic and accessible profiling of regional work opportunities. However, most participants would consider moving for the ‘right job’. There was a perception amongst many participants that they ‘should’ consider working in London although some had bad experiences there, feeling isolated and anxious as well as out of pocket. Attractive international destinations also featured, often as a potential temporary relocation. Some people planned to work away in the short-term and ultimately ‘settle down’ back in the North West. For those who did want to leave the North West, frustrations with transport and infrastructure emerged as perceived barriers to developing a career. Regional universities, individually and collectively, should explore the creation of accessible labour market information about career opportunities, in order to inform graduates about options existing in the region, and whether leaving will be necessary for the career they are interested in. Additional work could also explore innovative solutions to support opportunities for short-term outward mobility. Two additional conceptual types are proposed which extend Ball’s (2015) typology (‘loyals, stayers, returners and incomers’), which we call ‘explorer’ and ‘tourist’. Narratives around these two types highlight the need to consider mobility and migration as dynamic, fluid and highly personalised. Careers and higher education professionals need to examine their own attitudes to mobility as they could unwittingly influence the brokering and discussion of opportunities. Student and graduate attitudes to mobility, the benefits and challenges and how to navigate the practical and emotional obstacles are aspects of employability which deserve more attention and need to take into account personal circumstances in order to ensure that choices are informed and proactive rather than a default option.

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